The President’s Message

Rev. Addae Ama Kraba

Rev. Addae Ama Kraba

Greetings,

IWC is committed to empowering women globally and advancing gender equality. As we continue to further this important mission, we recognize that collaborating with groups who have corresponding missions is vital. We may have dropped plans for a women’s gathering in the Boston area this coming spring with representatives of U.S.-based UU women’s organizations, but you can be sure that constructive discussions with the UU Women’s Federation and UU Women &Religion continue. We look forward to opportunities for greater collaboration.

February is Black History month, and more businesses than ever recognize and celebrate the achievements of African Americans and the contributions they’ve made on the world stage. The focused highlighting of a people and their culture provides an opportunity to gain more information about the unsung African Americans left on the margins, particularly women.

“Equity in Action: Gender in an Intersecting World” is the theme of the Intergenerational Spring Conference of the UU-UNO (April 11-13, 2019). This theme serves as motivation to develop new and more creative ways of empowering and supporting women. Following the conference, we welcome the opportunity of engaging with global sisters from Romania, India and the Philippines as they address Gender Equity in a panel discussion at Community Church of New York. Please join us!

The United Nation’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.” We have reason to celebrate the increasing numbers of women who are inspired and empowered to enter into roles that have been traditionally male-dominated. Please join us in honoring and celebrating International Women’s Day in 2019: a comprehensive packet for congregations is available for download/consultation, on our website.

The trajectory of empowering women continues upwards globally. A pilot leadership development program was successfully completed in Bolivia, where women took part in workshops that not only focused on leadership and entrepreneurship, but on topics aimed at increasing awareness of violence. Violence against women is also being addressed by the Seng Kynthei Women’s Wing of the Northeast India Unitarian Union and the UU Women’s Association of Philippines in comprehensive programs that engage men in strategies to reduce and prevent gender-based violence. IWC is justly proud to have assisted all three of these important programs.

2018 will be remembered for its activism, mostly led by grassroots groups and unwavering individuals. Let us carry that same spirit forward into 2019, inspired by the incredible power, resolve, and boldness of women around the globe.

Rev. Addae Ama Kraba, IWC President

45 Women Take Part in a Pilot Leadership Program in Bolivia

by Calixta Choque Churata, Xiomara Sainz Salinas, and Zsófia Sztranyiczki

viacha-bolivia-womens-leadership-training-program

Program graduates with their certificates

The pilot leadership development program in Bolivia – implemented thanks to the generous support of people who contributed on Faithify, a UU crowd funding website – concluded on November 11, 2018. The bi-weekly training courses in sewing, hairdressing, and baking – over a three-month period – were complemented with workshops addressing Economic Empowerment and Economic Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Gender and Society (with a special topic on masculinity, machoism, and femicides), Prevention of Domestic/Family Violence, and Spirituality and Meditation.

The closing of the pilot program was a moving ceremony where the families of 40 out of the program’s 45 participants congregated in a shared lunch prepared by the participants themselves. The families included children, mothers, and relatives; a representative of the Board of Neighbors of the town of Viacha also honored the event with his presence.

viacha-bolivia-womens-leadership-training-programThe graduates of the program exhibited their works, talked about what they learned, their experiences, as well as their dreams and hopes. The sewing class displayed sportswear, cholita skirts, and jackets. The baking class provided cakes, pies, and puddings. The hairdressing class presented a variety of hairstyles, haircuts, makeups and fantasy makeups. The training course with the most participants was hairdressing; it also had the greatest number of young people (some in high school), who found in hairdressing a potential source of employment and income – since the course already enabled them to work during periods of high demand.

In thanking IWC for the opportunities that the program created, the women asked project leaders and the local team (Calixta Choque Churata, Xiomara Sainz Salinas, and Olga Flores Bedregal) to convey their desire to continue with this initiative. They feel the need to continue not only for themselves – but for their families as well.viacha-bolivia-womens-leadership-training-program3a

These courses were an inspiring spark for participants to think about paths to better livelihoods and to confront their situation of gender marginality. During the training, the participants established a neighborhood organization of women, realizing that a union would make them stronger: a sorority environment is the way to support each other and face hardships together. As Olga Flores Bedregal put it, “the more knowledge and tools are put in women´s hands, the more impact they will have toward a greater autonomy of women.”

The IWC is now looking forward to exploring next steps with the local team, building on the experiences of the pilot training.  The discussions will focus on program sustainability, developing capacities for long-term success, and strengthening women’s community.

viacha-bolivia-womens-leadership-training-program

Calixta (in green), with graduates
of the baking class

It was once said that a leader is someone who ‘lifts us up, gives us a reason for being and gives the vision and spirit to change.” Project leader Calixta Choque Churrata, who undertook most of the planning, organization, and logistics of the pilot program, is a leader who inspires. Here’s her message to everyone who supported the pilot program: “For my part, I thank you for making these training courses possible and bringing hope of improvement to the women of the District 7 and the municipality of Viacha, who are confronting many hardships. Thank you for encouraging us to look beyond and dream of the future.”

                                                                                                                                                                                

viacha-bolivia-womens-leadership-training-program3a

Delia (in the middle) with her certificate

Bolivia Pilot Program Participant Shares Her Experiences

My name is Delia Alexandra Fernández Vargas.

I am 18 years old. This is my last year of school. I want to go to the university. I am thinking of studying biochemistry.

I took the hairdressing training course because I like to learn hairstyles, hair care, new looks. I learned many useful things: for example, skin lightening, facial cleaning, hair care, massages, hair and skin hydration, new looks, and types of hair dyes. The teacher was very good. She knows her profession. I see myself doing hairstyles, hair dyes, or facial cleaning. I can offer these new skills.

This training will definitely help me in the future. I wish I could learn so much more. The training course lasted a short time.  I would recommend more classes per week and specific sessions (one day only for massages for example).

I am grateful for what I learned. My heartfelt thanks go to all the people who gave us the opportunity of taking these courses.

Seng Kynthei Raises Awareness of Violence in Karbi Anglong, Assam, India

by Major Elgiva Dora Shullai, Global Sister Coordinator, SKUUNEI

Seng Kynthei Raises Awareness of Violence in Karbi Anglong, Assam, IndiaOn October 19, 2018, eight Seng Kynthei members took a trip to Karbi Anglong district: a 12-hour journey through Assam state to conduct an awareness program on violence against women. In attendance were Seng Kynthei president Kong Battinora Rani, Seng Kynthei secretary Dr. Creamlimon Nongbri, Kong Elginia Lamar (a senior member), Dr. Rica Lamar and Elgiva Shullai as resource persons, Kong Angelina Law and Kong Wakawyrta Chadap from Mukhap village, and Kong Aloma Bourine Shullai from Jowai.

Rugged jungle tracks, heavy with deep puddles and sludges that hampered our speed, made the journey to Karbi Anglong an obstacle course. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by our Unitarian sisters and brothers. After arranging the venue and all requirements for the program the following day, we had a short prayer service.

Seventy-eight, both men and women, took part in the program. The event began with a warm welcome from Kansang Chinthongpi (Longduk Anglong), the secretary of the Karbi Anglong Circle, followed by greetings and then chalice lighting from our Karbi women’s wing. A prayer was offered by Kong Battinora Rani. Many helped with registration, photographing and recording, distributing pamphlets, and facilitator work. Mr. Arjun Sing Kathar, a very energetic and lively youth, was our interpreter throughout the day.

As the first resource person, I presented an introduction and objectives: a brief statement as to why it is so important to address gender-based violence. After sharing recent news on violence against women and girls, I talked about gender, gender-based violence, differences between sex and gender, and types of violence. The subject was tailored to a mixed crowd of men, women, and youth. The men were encouraged to remain vigilant and aware at all times as violence may concern the safety of their own relations and loved ones.

A short exercise on the role of our society in defining gender followed. At this point, sharing and responses from participants were minimal. Most of the women were quiet; this type of a program was very new to them.  However, at the conclusion of the program, many expressed joy that we had raised awareness and made the subject less disturbing to discuss.

Dr. Rica Lamar presented Indian laws and regulations meant to curb incidences of violence against women and children and to punish perpetrators. Participants were also acquainted with the White Ribbon Campaign and the importance of observing the International day of Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25) as well as International Women’s Day (March 8).

We presented a poster about the #MeToo movement and urged attendees to become involved by sending their personal stories to a national email address created by the Government of India: ncw.metoo@gmail.com. In addition, various informational pamphlets were distributed: Dos and Don’ts when raped, information on helplines, government shelters, hospitals, and police stations.

To conclude, we read the White Ribbon Pledge together, led by Mr. Rajendra Teron. Dr. Creamlimon Nongbri thanked participants and organizers alike, acknowledging the active participation of women and men in the Karbi Anglong Circle. Mr. Mon Sing Kathar, assistant minister, proposed a vote of thanks on behalf of the Karbi Circle, which was followed by a song from the hymn book, “God Be with You till We Meet Again.” The benediction was given by Mrs. Cheribon Millickpi (Zirikyndeng), chairperson of Karbi Circle. Group photos and boxed lunch in the church front yard followed.

I take this opportunity to thank the Unitarian Union of North East India, our Seng Kynthei members (especially our senior members who have always supported us with a lot of positivity and enthusiasm), each participant who has felt the need and responsibility to attend the program, our resource persons, as well as our sponsors and guides at all levels who have made this program a success.

Engaging Women and Men to End Gender-Based Violence:  Kalumboyan, Negros Oriental, the Philippines

by Rev. Rebecca Sienes, the Philippines

AWAKE – a violence awareness program in Philippine UU communitiesThanks to a very successful Faithify campaign last year, the IWC supports AWAKE – a violence awareness program in Philippine UU communities, implemented in collaboration with the Women’s Association of the UU Church of the Philippines and Buhata Pinay (“Do It, Filipina”), Inc., an NGO that focuses on microfinance, health, and education for women of Negros Island.

The AWAKE program – Awake Women & Men through Knowledge & Education – was designed by the UUCP to enhance awareness of violence against women and educate participants about violence against women and girls and its effects on individuals, family, and society at large.

Violence against women and girls is a culturally ingrained phenomenon that must be addressed. The UU Church of the Philippines (UUCP) has been trying to adopt effective counter measures to reduce gender-based violence. The Our Whole Lives (OWL) program promotes healthy sexuality, educates youth, and prevents harmful behaviors. The innovative OWL orientation session for parents is also a great antidote to senseless comments from parents, many of whom think sex should not be talked about on church premises.

In January 2019, AWAKE was implemented in Kalumboyan, a barangay (suburb) in the city of Bayawan, in the province of Negros Oriental. The training took place over three consecutive Saturdays and brought together 66 people, 46 women and 20 men.

For this training, Rev. Rebecca Sienes and Rev. Elvira (Elvie) Sienes re-designed AWAKE based on Elvie’s ideas and work experience with Tuburan, an NGO focusing on rural women’s empowerment. The first day, Rev. Rebecca introduced Buhata Pinay and explained its programs; after which an interactive session addressed Philippine culture and women’s self-perception. Rev. Elvie then presented an overview of the pre-colonial and colonial history of the Philippines to make participants aware about the status of women during the pre-colonial period and the subsequent foreign (Spanish and American) rule, when patriarchy became a dominant system.

On the second day, short films on domestic abuse in various races and cultures were shown. Rev. Elvie worked separately with the participating men, who were asked how they felt about being considered first-class citizens, their thoughts about gender-based violence, and how they could engage in combatting and preventing it.

On the third day, interactive games and activities raised awareness of the topic, and Rev. Rebecca talked about sources of violence. Rev. Elvie spoke on forms of violence and presented RA 9262 – the legal act that defines violence against women and their children, provides for protective measures for victims, and prescribes penalties. At the end of the program, RA 9262 brochures as well as the form for requesting a Barangay Protection Order were distributed.

Buhata Pinay and the UU Women’s Association of Philippines are committed to ongoing work in this very important mission of our faith.

The President’s Column by Rev. Addae Ama Kraba

Rev. Addae Ama Kraba

Rev. Addae Ama Kraba

It is my great honor, privilege, and opportunity to serve as the new president of IWC. As my three-year term begins, I will seek to build on the successes of the organization to further its important mission of empowering women worldwide. As we start implementing IW’s new strategic plan, we will seek your engagement to achieve our organizational goals. Stay tuned for more specific details.

Please join us in honoring and celebrating International Women’s Day in 2019: a comprehensive packet for congregations is available for download/consultation, on our website.

The leadership pilot program in Bolivia is now under way – thank you to all those who donated to IWC’s Faithify campaign in the spring! Please read the exciting report on pages 2-3.

IWC and the UU Women’s Federation have adopted a joint statement in response to the Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court because we believe in a world without patriarchy and toxic masculinity – and we pledge to do our part in dismantling oppressive patriarchal structures and putting an end to a culture of misogyny and rape.

I’m delighted to announce the launch of several violence awareness and prevention programs, in partnerships with national U*U women’s organizations in Transylvania, India, and the Philippines. More information is listed on pages 6-9.

Julie Steinbach reports on the success of a #MeToo-era campaign led by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, stream speaker at the Third Convocation; Dauber’s new project aims to make violence against women a voting issue in U.S. (page 12). IWC’s workshop at UUA General Assembly in June tackled gender-based violence in U*U congregations and communities (more information on pages 10-11).

UNOSZ, the Unitarian Women’s Association of Romania – in collaboration with IWC – launched a book of prayers and meditations on the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda. U*U women from all corners of the world contributed to this special publication, and efforts are being made to make it available outside of Romania.

We are honored to welcome Matilda Kiss from Transylvania, a great addition to our board of directors. A brief biography is listed on page 15.

Given the recent events surrounding the U.S. President’s pick for the Supreme Court and the reports of the violence awareness programs and campaigns in this newsletter, I feel that our work is more valuable than ever. Your continued support for our mission to empower women is greatly appreciated.

Pilot Training in Bolivia: Building Women’s Capacity to Spark Change

 

By Calixta Choque Churata, Xiomara Sainz Salinas, and Zsófia Sztranyiczki

pilot-training-in-bolivia-building-womens-capacity-to-spark-changeThe leadership pilot program in Bolivia – launched thanks to women and men who donated to IWC’s Faithify campaign in the spring – kicked off in August under the leadership of project coordinator Calixta Choque Churata. A Unitarian and former human development director in the Luribay Municipality of Bolivia, Calixta attended IWC’s 2015 Gathering in Bolivia, where she emerged as a leader to carry forth the participants’ commitments to action.

The pilot initiative aims to build the capacity of women to unleash their leadership potential, empowering them to spark change in their own lives and in the lives of their families and communities. The project takes place in District 7 of Viacha (a city next to El Alto and close to La Paz that is home to Aymara immigrants; it has 45 thousand inhabitants, most living in poverty). Women in this area are overwhelmingly homemakers or street vendors (and thus part of the informal economy). State services including health facilities are scarce, streets are full of dust, and there is no garbage collection or sewage system.

pilot-training-in-bolivia-building-womens-capacity-to-spark-changeThree practical simultaneous workshops – vocational training in hairdressing, sewing, and baking – are empowering women economically, breaking down the barriers that hold women back. Each training has approximately 20 women of all ages, and many take their children with them. The baking class teaches how to make bread, cookies, empanadas, and Swiss rolls. The sewing class teaches how to master a sewing machine and has produced cholitas (traditional pleated skirts), tablecloths, sportswear, and other types of clothing. The hairdressing class is quite popular because the professional hairdressing school is far away and costly. Incidentally, the clientele has grown substantially since the classes provide free haircuts for the children of poor mothers.

The program plans to build women’s leadership capacities and skills through topics addressing entrepreneurship, labor rights, personal skills (developing self-esteem and self-confidence), domestic violence prevention, as well as spirituality. The leadership courses envisioned will take place outside of class schedules or in class hours, depending on the situation. The resource persons for these courses come from institutions or specialists on the topics.

pilot-training-in-bolivia-building-womens-capacity-to-spark-change

As of this writing, a few introductory sessions have been implemented focusing on power, toxic masculinity, and femicides; entrepreneurship (how to start a small enterprise); leadership; as well as spirituality and meditation. Two women broke their silence, coming forward to share their domestic violence experiences, two in public, and one in private. The meditation classes revealed that the women didn’t have any experience with meditation, providing their first time for self-observation. They could feel, at least for a few seconds, inner peace. This process will help them lead to more self-awareness and acceptance of who they are; it will enhance their self-confidence to make empowering, conscious choices.

pilot-training-in-bolivia-building-womens-capacity-to-spark-change“The pilot project in Bolivia is a demonstration that with few resources it is possible to support the training of women to increase their income, as a step towards their better economic positioning,” says Olga Flores Bedregal, leader of a small UU community in La Paz. In addition, leadership skills and attitudes will enable them to bring positive change not only in their lives and that of their families but in their communities as well.

Seng Kynthei Makes Strides in Addressing Violence against Women and Girls

By Major Elgiva Dora Shullai, Global Sister Coordinator, SKUUNEI, India

seng-kynthei-addresses-violence-against-womenSeng Kynthei, the Women’s Wing of the North East India Unitarian Union, has started a violence awareness and prevention campaign, supported by IWC through a UU Funding Program grant and plate collections from Transylvanian Unitarian congregations in honor of Mother’s Day.

During the summer, several violence awareness programs took place in Unitarian communities in North East India, under the leadership of Elgiva Shullai, Global Sisters Coordinator for Seng Kynthei. 24 women attended the awareness program on violence against women and girls in Smit (Kharang Circle); 67 women, men, and youth took part in a similar program in Jowai (Jowai Circle); and 27 women participated in a similar program in Kyrdem (Bhoi Circle).

Resource persons (Dr. Rica Lamar, Ms. Karuna Lamar, and representatives of NGOs in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills) spoke on sex and gender, the role of women in the Khasi matrilineal society, gender-based violence, the use and abuse of power, as well as women’s legal rights and the various government laws that are already in place to protect, prevent, and curb violence. They encouraged the participants to be vigilant, and to report crimes and abuses in order to help create a safer and healthier society for all.

Dr. Rica urged the women to think of ways and means to raise Khasi children – both girls and boys – on a gender equality foundation. In addition, she urged participants to live their faith responsibly, both in church life and in the community, and to form a strong community group that can be a source of help and information for women and girls.

An important takeaway of these awareness programs is that India needs institutions that have effective and easily accessible monitoring systems and stringent laws against perpetrators. Perpetrators must be held to account, ensuring timely justice for victims: the safety and protection of victims and their rehabilitation is of utmost significance.

Elgiva, speaking about the program, mentioned that rape cases are starting to be reported: “In Kyrdem, the women presented three cases of rapes happening in their villages. One involved a minor (whose mother was present at the meeting), another a widow, and the third victim a mentally challenged young woman. All these cases had been registered with the health services, the police department, and government schemes for help and rehabilitation have been given to them – their court cases are pending. It was wonderful to realize that women are finally daring to break their silence and take their cases to the authorities! I take this opportunity to thank the participants who have felt the need and responsibility to attend the programs, our resource persons, and our sponsors and guides at all levels to make this program a success.”

 

Transylvanian Women Say No to Intimate Partner Violence

By Gyöngyi Forró-Erős, school psychologist

Transylvanian Women Say No to Intimate Partner ViolenceIn partnership with IWC, UNOSZ, the Association of Unitarian Women of Romania, addressed violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence – at the 6th module of the leadership training for Unitarian women, Marosvásárhely/Târgu Mureș, September 21-23, 2018.

Domestic violence is not one’s own business: its ramifications are far-reaching and profound, going beyond the scope of the family. The phenomenon is a deep societal issue that needs to be addressed, and community leaders have a crucial role in combatting such gender-based violence.

Transylvanian Women Say No to Intimate Partner ViolenceAbout 40 women participated in the three-day training. Mental hygiene specialist and Unitarian minister Dr. Enikő Ferenczi and psychologist Dr. Éva László talked about domestic violence and its types, manifestations, as well as effects on the surrounding environment. They emphasized that domestic violence does not exclusively mean physical aggression: a partner can resort to verbal, emotional, spiritual, or financial abuse; disparagement of one’s faith or religious convictions is also a form of abuse. Jail psychologist Erika Moldován focused on the relationship of domestic violence to patterns of conviction: males exposed to domestic violence as children are more likely to engage in domestic violence as adults; instances of abuse are more frequent in cases where husbands were abused as children or who saw their mothers being abused.

Participants were also informed of the current Romanian legislation against domestic violence and the policies in place to protect victims. If a victim of domestic abuse kills her intimate partner in an act of self-defense, she must be tried, since Romania does not recognize justifiable homicide.

Transylvanian Women Say No to Intimate Partner ViolenceAn interesting topic was why victims stay in an abusive relationship. The answer is manifold. Domestic violence has its own cycle: abuse is followed by a honeymoon phase, during which the victim becomes more convinced that her partner will change and that leaving the relationship is not necessary. Then tension builds, and abuse begins again. The surrounding environment – whether in a narrower or broader sense – is often unsupportive and unaccepting: traditional attitudes such as “women must bear up” are deeply ingrained in society. In many cases, the abuser is known as a gentleman, and so people around do not accept the fact that he does not behave like a gentleman at home. Victims often lack information or resources: they don’t know from whom and where they can ask for help.  Many lack courage to speaTransylvanian Women Say No to Intimate Partner Violencek up, feel ashamed, or are afraid of the future.

What can community leaders do? First and foremost, they cannot sweep this topic under the rug: they must talk about it. They must be attentive to warning signs and help victims of domestic violence. They can put together safety plans, find shelters, offer psychological support, and report abuse incidents to the authorities. Domestic violence is not a private matter: we must all do our part for the good of everyone, for the safety and well-being of our society.

 

A participant in the violence awareness training shared her thoughts with us, anonymously:

A participant in the violence awareness training shared her thoughts with us, anonymously

What this weekend training offered I cannot really put into words. I didn’t talk much, I didn’t share my story, I didn’t talk about what happened to me – but I can tell you that the training has changed my life.

I had experienced all the manifestations of domestic violence that the experts talked about. After years of suffering and hope, I got a divorce. I had always hoped for change. I convinced myself that in time our life would be better. That time never came – instead, the situation became worse and worse. That is why I decided to file for divorce. But that did not mean an end to my ordeal. My family, relatives, and acquaintances blamed me and told me that I should have endured. That I shouldn’t have gotten a divorce. My child should have been raised by her own father. This is the reason why she is also divorced. Confronted with such charges, I could only become filled with self-guilt. I blamed myself for my failures and the failures of those around me. Then various illnesses started…when the leadership school was launched, I signed up. The training sessions filled me spiritually. Every time I came closer to myself. When I went home from this training, I sat down and thought it over. Again and again. Then I told myself I am ready to forgive myself.

My heart is filled with gratitude. Thank you, for making me unburden a heavy load that others kept piling on my shoulders; a load that I silently carried and even added to…which I could hardly bear any longer.

I forgave myself! How odd this sounds but how much power it carries. Now I know that I wasn’t the reason for our lives not working out together. I am grateful to the experts and the organizers for helping me to forgive myself and finally breathe freely, unburdened, giving thanks to the Almighty that I am. And I am who I am. Thank you!

President’s Column: Pathways to Change

Arlene Johnson, President, International Women's Convocation

Arlene Johnson

By Arlene Johnson

I would be remiss if I did not call out the most exciting news from my home country of Ireland last week.  With a large voter turn-out – fueled by shifting attitudes on the legalization of abortion, along with the declining influence of the Catholic Church exacerbated by sexual abuse scandals – the Irish people spoke loudly and clearly that women have the right to make their own decisions without church or government interference.

We are pleased to announce that our IWC Board has completed a new strategic plan. The plan is the outcome of a year-long process undertaken by the international board via online conference calls, under the skilled leadership of IWC board member Kathy Burek. We greatly appreciate the hard work and effort that all involved have put into this critical strategic planning process. Please read the summary of the plan on page 2.

Two board members (Phyllis Marsh, Treasurer and Rev. Carol Huston, Vice-President) and I had an excellent meeting in late March with UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray in Boston.  Our Executive Director, Zsófia Sztranyiczki participated by phone. This was an opportunity to share with President Frederick-Gray our new strategic plan as well as explore ways we can enhance our collaboration with the UUA.

Plans are underway for a planning meeting in September with the UU Women’s Federation, UU Women and Religion, and representatives of other UU organizations in the U.S. that focus on issues of concern to women. The meeting, prompted by input from women in the U.S. and other countries attending our Third International Convocation last year in California, is an opportunity to share experience, expertise, and insights as we unite our voices to strengthen collaboration and lay out strategies for collective action.

Led by Rev. Carol Huston, some of our IWC members attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meetings in New York during the last two weeks of March and a brief report is included on page 11.

We are delighted to have received a $2,000 grant plus a Challenge Grant of $2,000 from the Fund for International Unitarian Universalism. It will help IWC assist women in the Khasi Hills, India expand their violence awareness program and lay the groundwork for a future OWL initiative.

If you are planning to attend the UUA General Assembly in June, we invite you to our Annual Breakfast on Saturday morning, June 23: come hear Dr. Rica Lamar from Meghalaya, India, member of IWC’s Global Sisters Leadership Council talk about combatting and preventing violence in the Khasi Hills. In addition, we are sponsoring a workshop on Saturday afternoon in collaboration with the UU Women’s Federation, looking at the impact of the #Me Too movement and ways in which U*U women confront bullying and abuse in systems of patriarchal authority. More information is listed on page 6.

With my three-year term as president finishing at the end of June, I want to thank all of you for the privilege and opportunity to serve in this capacity. It has been a growth-filled and amazing journey!  The IWC board is delighted to announce that Rev. Addae Kraba has agreed to serve as our next president along with two new board members, Karen Kortsch and Geri Kennedy (more information on page 4). Your continued support for our mission to empower women is greatly appreciated!

 

IWC Board Adopts New Strategic Plan

By Kathy Burek, on behalf of the IWC Board of Directors

IWC Vision:

We are a global partnership of U*U women

who work for women’s empowerment

through U*U connections around the world.

The IWC Board of Directors recently completed a year-long strategic planning process. IWC’s strategic plan intends to build on the great work accomplished over its 8-year history and help shape the future of the organization.

We affirm IWC’s identity as an organization of women, grounded in Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist principles and values (U*U principles hereafter). A primary goal of IWC is to achieve gender equity and to empower women. What unites us across national borders, race, and class lines is our commitment to empowering women and dismantling patriarchy and other structures of oppression.

Another important part of our identity is that we are an international organization, not simply a U.S. organization with international interests. We are committed to supporting projects that arise from and are led by the communities served. We will engage in partnerships based on equality, and not operate on the “savior” or “charity” models. Being culturally sensitive it critical. We do not wish to perpetuate U.S. cultural hegemony. Sustainability is an important criterion for our work; we seek to build on the existing capabilities in the communities we serve. IWC also pledges to be accountable to all of our stakeholders. We are nondiscriminatory in our work, open to all who share our vision and values.

As a small organization, IWC can’t do it all. Part of our process was to decide what work we can do, trusting that there are others who will address issues we cannot address. We remain committed to empowering women in our five program areas of Economic Empowerment, Education, Health and Reproductive Justice, Leadership Development, and Violence Prevention. Leadership Development will be one of our priority areas for the next five years, as we build on the Global Initiative for Women’s Leadership launched at the IWC Business Meeting last year. The #MeToo movement provides IWC with an opportunity to leverage a worldwide campaign by emphasizing work in Violence Prevention. We have been successful in raising funds to support violence awareness programs in the Philippines, India, and Bolivia; we will also offer a workshop on this topic at the 2018 UUA General Assembly in U.S. Gatherings and convocations will continue to be vital as we build meaningful relationships and partnerships.

IWC values our many partners, especially U*U women’s organizations in the U.S., India, the Philippines, Hungary, and Romania. Together with the UU Women’s Federation and the UU Women & Religion, we will organize a meeting of U*U women’s organizations and organizations focusing on women’s advancement in the Boston area this coming September. This meeting will help us coordinate our activities and collaborate to achieve common goals.

IWC relies heavily on grants which are passed along to the projects we sponsor. The financial support of the UU Funding Panels makes our work possible, and we are grateful for their assistance. Building a stable source of funding for our programs and activities is a critical goal. We need to support and expand our staff if we are to attain our goals.

We also need many hands to do this important work. You will be hearing over the next year about ways you can help IWC.

You will find the IWC Strategic Plan here. Your comments and feedback are always welcome!